Photographs by Dawn Hamilton.
“Any chance you get to see Maynard is fantastic”, said a middle aged man to a young girl, waiting behind the closed doors of Toronto’s Sony Centre. The girl agreed, as would pretty much everybody else in the audience of several hundreds who had gathered at the venue to see an independent, unsponsored project of the front man of Tool and A Perfect Circle, Maynard James Keenan.
The doors opened around 7:45 and it wasn’t long before the hall went dark for the two sport commentators to appear on small screens on each sides of the stage. As they announced a wrestling match was about to happen, the gigantic structure that was covered by a large black piece of fabric in the middle of the stage next to a Jail door was uncovered.
It was a wrestling ring!
With some of the crowd sitting on each sides of the stage, the show begun with a round of Lucha Libre, a theatrical form of wrestling developed in Mexico, with blue and red tag team against each other, along with a man who first appeared with a tray of shots for the teams but then appeared to be a feared wrestler himself, covered in black with a crazy level of flexibility and accuracy. Thirty minutes and many moonsaults later, as the wrestling udience were guided back to their real seats, it was time for Maynard’s to appear on the screens as a conservative Republican general, giving instructions about how dummies shouldn’t take any photograph or record any video or audio, and that if they do, dummies should be gone.
And with that note, the show begun.
The crowd went crazy as Maynard stepped on the ring in a suit, a mohawk and a wrestling mask. For Act 1, Puscifer performed Simultaneous, Galileo, and Agostina from their new album, Money Shot. The music and the performance was everything that the crowd was waiting for. It was hard, it was heavy, it was groovy, it was innovative, and Maynard’s voice was nothing less than therapeutic for those who have followed the man through the years, whether as a rockstar, a winemaker, or a controversial commentator. To his loyal fans, Maynard has always been a real deal, and so is Puscifer.
Act 1 ended with another round of Lucha Libre.
As Act 2 was announced on the gigantic back screen, the band begun with a new interpretation of Vagina Mine, a song from Puscifer’s first album, “V” is for Vagina. As the Act 2 continued with songs from Puscifer’s second album, Condition of My Parole, and Money Shot, it was the tight performance and the incredibly well-blent balance between the electronics and the analog sounds that made me realize that this is perhaps only the beginning of a project that has already gone beyond the borders of genres and styles, in the name of the freedom of artistic expression in any way, shape or form possible.
Another round of Lucha Libre, and Act 3 was announced.
After performing Life of Brian (Apparently You Haven’t Seen), it was time for the guitarist-singer, Carina Round, to play and sing Rev 22:20. The powerful expressive voice of Carina Round proved to e well-matched for Maynard’s fantastically dynamic original melody line, as was confirmed with the standing ovation of the audience who, along with Maynard, accompanied Miss Round with ritualistic sing along of the word “Pray” of the choruses. The band then continued with Grand Canyon, The Rapture (Fear is a Mind Killa Mix), Breathe, and led the way for yet another round of Lucha Libre to finish the act.
As the acts progressed, so did the visuals on the back screen Act 4 begun with Toma, Telling Ghosts, Flippant, and continued with Condition of My Parole, Money Shot, and Man overboard. It was then when Maynard, surrounded by dark blue lights, decided to have some words with the audience.
“Before I introduce the crew, I would like to take this opportunity and apologize for Donald Trump.” the crowd went crazy. “We thought it was funny”, Maynard continued, “but it gone too far.” but it was his closing line, of how they will move to Canada if Trump is elected, that made the crowd going completely nuts. And why not? Their lose, our gain. Maynard then continued by introducing the crew, including the wrestlers, Carina Round on vocals + guitars + mandolin + banjo, the Iranian born Mahsa Zargaran on vocals + synths + guitars, Paul Barker of Ministry on bass, Jeff Friedl on drums, and Mat Mitchell on guitars along with producing and mixing and collaborating with Maynard who said he couldn’t done it without him. The band then left the stage with the wrestlers encouraging the audience to persist with their applauds and cheers for the band to come back for encore. And indeed they did with the haunting The Humbling River, and finishing with Autumn.
Puscifer is more than a music act. Puscifer is a modern music-centric cabaret, a full-on entertainment show, and a great indicators of the independent music evolution in the 21st century and beyond.